Empathy: Communicating feelings

One of the hardest things for all of us is communicating our feelings without blaming the other party for “making” us feel a certain way.  Yet this is one of the most important parts of empathy.  As someone trying to practice empathy we are not just going to let others walk all over us.  We should not give up our  own power and feelings just to make someone else feel good.  That is not a win – win.

 Finding a respectful way of expressing our feelings is key to maintaining this balance.  One way of achieving this is to use “I” messages.  Now we have all heard this before but putting this into practice whether as an adult or a child is difficult without taking our time to respond. 

One suggestion that is key to expressing ourselves respectfully is to take 3 breaths prior to speaking.  Consider quickly how the other person is feeling or what the situation is that created the feelings of the other person.  Once we have done that the message we deliver should be on the lines of  “I feel hurt when you speak to me in that manner.” 

Now having the correct feeling in our mind may be the hard part and we may need to take note of what we are really feeling and why.  So as we teach our children how to use “I feel statements’, we need to teach them feeling words.  This will give them the vocabulary to use and not just use one or two feelings for everything.  They should learn words like angry, frustrated, disappointed, happy, proud, left out, hurt, and how to use them. 

Finally as parents we want to model this when we are talking about other adults, situations at work and especially when we are disciplining our children.  These are teaching moments.  Remember, our children learn more about how to handle things from what we do that from what we tell them to do.

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